We consumers seem to becoming pawns in the power struggle between internet behemoths Google and Microsoft. To Google, we are "products" to be sold to highest bidding advertiser and to Microsoft we have been reduced largely to a software license. The battle these two corporate superpowers are undergoing leaves me feeling awed, and puny.
So when I read the plethora of opinions the experts are spinning about whether Bing is better than Google, I wonder what "Judy Consumer" thinks. I suspect the subtleties of the technology are probably lost on her.
What the "Judy Consumers" of the world do know is that the new Bing advertising campaign promises that Bing is not only a search engine but a decision engine. I can imagine the agency/client meetings assessing this positioning vs. that one. I can hear the focus group comments that came from the testing that no doubt went into the creation of this campaign. And I can certainly feel the excitement (maybe even a little tension) as the agency reported on the research results in support of the recommended campaign. Been there, done that.
Clearly the Bing campaign is meant to communicate that people will get to the relevant information they want faster than Google. But this almost technical benefit (it's really about better filtering of search results) is lost in the grandiose promise of Bing as a decision engine. Maybe I am just too independently minded (and not the primary target), but I resist the notion that Microsoft technology will decide anything for me. What I really want is technology to give me the information I need to make the decision I want. But, hey, everyone's a critic.
So then I went to look at how Bing does deliver in its decision-making promise. I did the first search that came to mind: I searched my name. And Google did much better and was more accurate than Bing by far. In fact, I could compare results very efficiently via a site called bing-vs-google.com that David Pogue of the New York Times introduced to readers.
I tried again, searching the term "online trust." The results were no more satisfying this time. True, Bing does have a few nifty features like the related searches and the excerpt from the site without having to click around, but beyond that I could see no perceptible difference.
Maybe I am not looking hard enough and I certainly did not put it through its paces as David Pogue did. Or just maybe the differences are too subtle for "Judy Consumer" to notice. Or maybe most people don't care enough about search to look for these extra features. And this is where Bing is at a distinct disadvantage: It takes a lot to overcome inertia.
I don't proclaim to know how this war will end but I hope "Judy Consumer" makes up her own mind and doesn't rely on either Microsoft or Google to make her decisions. Or the pundits either for that matter. They know too much.
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Judy Shapiro is senior VP at Paltalk and has held senior marketing positions at Comodo, Computer Associates, Lucent Technologies, AT&T and Bell Labs. Her blog, Trench Wars, provides insights on how to create business value on the internet.